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Heartland Championship preview: round two

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Thursday, August 30, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Getty Images

In the early 2pm kickoff on the Memorial Park artificial turf, Wairarapa-Bush will seek to bounce back from its opening round 27-22 loss to Poverty Bay when it hosts Thames Valley.

The Swamp Foxes know they must bring their A game for more than 40 minutes after surrendering a 22-8 halftime lead to fall 27-25 to West Coast in Te Aroha last weekend. Coach Matt Bartleet is seeking to instil some old school values, and the red stripe across the gold jerseys is just a start.

West Coast stormed home in the second half to beat Thames Valley last weekend, fullback Pete Te Rakau especially prominent. But it would have been an emotional time after No 8 Brad Houston suffered a heart attack. He is on the mend, and now the Coasters welcome defending Meads Cup champions Wanganui to Greymouth, where the home ground is now renamed John Sturgeon Park, after one of West Coast rugby’s favourite sons. 

QUICK TAP: KING COUNTRY MAKES POWERFUL START TO HEARTLAND
 

Ngati Porou East Coast matches up with Horowhenua Kapiti in front of its people in Ruatoria, fresh off a hefty 75-17 defeat to King Country. Ryan Shelford’s team comfortably had the wood on East Coast last season and is coming off a tight 24-30 loss to Mid Canterbury in round one. East Coast should however be better for blooding seven debutants against the Rams.

Former Manu Samoa rep James So’oialo, younger brother of internationals Rodney and Steve, has shifted from first five to fullback for the visitors.

Buller is back at its Victoria Square home base after suffering a 30-24 reverse to North Otago. Seasoned loan player Robbie Malneek showed his value at fullback, scoring a nice try against the Old Golds.

The King Country Rams will have to get up emotionally again. They had no trouble last week in Te Kuiti, which was billed ‘Remembering Pinetree Day’. They played with freedom, but will not be afforded the same space to move against a Buller side that prides itself on its defence and set-piece strengths. Reigning Lochore Cup champion Mid Canterbury plays host to Hanan Shield rivals North Otago in another potentially even clash. Solid in the lineout and dangerous out wide in the 30-24 win over Horowhenua Kapiti, the Hammers will be keen to reverse last season’s result. The A teams from both unions will feature in the curtainraiser.

South Canterbury faces Poverty Bay in Timaru, where the home crowd will get to honour the 50-game milestone which first five Jared Trevathan raised last weekend.

Poverty Bay will want to get ball in the hands of wing Te Peehi Fairlie, who scorched in for the winning try last weekend against Wairarapa-Bush. Watch too for the loan player at second five, Mapa Tuipulotu, who played Auckland as far back as 2008.

The match-ups:

Wairarapa-Bush v Thames Valley
Saturday September 1, 2pm at Trust House Memorial Park, Masterton
Referee: Tipene Cottrell (Hawke’s Bay)
Played: 20 (1976-2016)
Wins: Wairarapa-Bush 12, Thames Valley 8
Last match: Wairarapa-Bush 28 Thames Valley 18 (September 17, 2016)

West Coast v Wanganui
Saturday September 1, 2pm at Rugby Park, Greymouth
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (North Harbour)
Played: 19 (1985-2016)
Wins: Wanganui 16, West Coast 3
Last match: Wanganui 74 West Coast 6 (August 27, 2016)

East Coast v Horowhenua Kapiti
Saturday September 1, 2.30pm at Whakarua Park, Ruatoria
Referee: Nick Hogan (Wellington)
Played: 40 (1951-2017)
Wins: Horowhenua Kapiti 23, East Coast 16, Drawn 1
Last match: Horowhenua Kapiti 52 East Coast 3 (September 23, 2017)

Buller v King Country
Saturday September 1, 2.30pm at Victoria Square, Westport
Referee: Tim Griffiths (Manawatu)
Played: 18 (1957-2016)
Wins: King Country 10, Buller 8
Last match: Buller 40 King Country 38 (October 15, 2016)

Mid Canterbury v North Otago
Saturday September 1, 2.30pm at Ashburton Showgrounds, Ashburton
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown (Canterbury)
Played: 77 (1928-2017)
Wins: Mid Canterbury 37, North Otago 37, Drawn 3
Last match: North Otago 31 Mid Canterbury 25 (September 2, 2017)

South Canterbury v Poverty Bay
Saturday September 1, 2.30pm at Alpine Energy Stadium, Timaru
Referee: Nick Webster (South Canterbury)
Played: 24 (1894-2016)
Wins: South Canterbury 14, Poverty Bay 10
Last match: South Canterbury 52 Poverty Bay 28 (September 17, 2016)